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Bellingham schools may cut back jobs, programs to save money

"Ewww, it's slimy," Lainie Mueller said as she picked up her squid during a science lesson in Veronica Binkley's kindergarten class at Lowell Elementary School. The students studied their squid before dissecting them with adult helpers April 23, 2008. The activity was part of an under-the-sea science unit that exposed the children to the process of scientific observation. "Children learn best through discovery and hands-on learning," Binkley said. The children are learning about three categories of sea animals: invertebrates, fish and mammals. "I learned that squid eyes feel disgusting," Mueller said after the exercise.
"Ewww, it's slimy," Lainie Mueller said as she picked up her squid during a science lesson in Veronica Binkley's kindergarten class at Lowell Elementary School. The students studied their squid before dissecting them with adult helpers April 23, 2008. The activity was part of an under-the-sea science unit that exposed the children to the process of scientific observation. "Children learn best through discovery and hands-on learning," Binkley said. The children are learning about three categories of sea animals: invertebrates, fish and mammals. "I learned that squid eyes feel disgusting," Mueller said after the exercise. JOSIE LIMING THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

BELLINGHAM - Eliminating district office positions, reducing landscaping costs and returning to an every-other-day kindergarten program are all potential cost-saving measures that Bellingham School District families could see next school year.

The district released a rank-ordered list of potential budget savings ideas on Monday, Feb. 1, continuing the budget-cutting trend that started last school year.

The 99-item list is based upon ideas submitted by parents, students, community members and staff in December. District officials examined submitted ideas, making sure they were cuts or savings that didn't violate law or contracts and could be implemented by Sept. 1.

In January, the District Budget Advisory Committee, composed of district employees, parents, students and community members, voted on and ranked each item, putting the items they felt were least painful at the top of the list.

Acting Superintendent Brown will use the list, along with public input, to create her own Budget Savings Plan, which will then go to the school board at the end of the month. The school board will likely vote on the plan in mid-March.

Since the state Legislature is still in session and discussing items that could affect school budgets statewide, district officials do not know exactly how much of a reduction the district will have to make.

Some of the cuts mentioned at the state level include: eliminating remaining funding for Initiative 728, which voters approved to increase student achievement and reduce class sizes; limiting class-size reduction funding for kindergarten through fourth grade; and eliminating the remaining professional development day for teachers.

Those cuts would equate to about $2.6 million for the Bellingham School District, according to data presented during the December school board meeting. The class-size reductions funding pays for the equivalent of 29 full-time employees, however the elimination of the funding doesn't necessarily mean the positions would be cut.

When district officials and the school board are finalizing the budget this spring, they will use the board-approved prioritized budget savings list to make cuts.

Other items on the proposed savings list include:

Share a principal between two small elementary schools, saving about $126,000.

Cancel all travel and trainings for a year, except for those covered by grants or are legally required, saving about $119,000.

Eliminate the district subsidy of the International Baccalaureate Program, saving about $8,000.

Move the GRADS program to a high school, saving about $22,000.

Reduce school budgets by an additional 10 percent, saving about $106,000.


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